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Ibrahimović sets Milan on course to Plzeň success

AC Milan 2-0 FC Viktoria Plzeň
Second-half goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović, a penalty, and Antonio Cassano earned the Rossoneri their first Group H win.

Ibrahimović sets Milan on course to Plzeň success
Ibrahimović sets Milan on course to Plzeň success ©UEFA.com

AC Milan gained their first win in UEFA Champions League Group H courtesy of goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović and Antonio Cassano against FC Viktoria Plzeň.

Pavel Vrba's Plzeň side enjoyed their fair share of chances in an open first half, yet the hosts might have won by a greater margin but for the resistance of goalkeeper Marek Čech, who held firm until Ibrahimović − from the penalty spot − and Cassano scored in the second half.

It was not all one-way traffic, however, with Plzeň fashioning an opening for Marek Bakoš after three minutes. Pavel Horváth instigated an attack with a reverse pass to Václav Pilař, who muscled past Ignazio Abate on the left and provided the striker with a headed chance, which was well saved by Christian Abbiati.

Milan responded immediately as Ibrahimović − on his return from injury − ran at David Limberský and picked out Cassano for a first-time effort that was repelled by the legs of Čech. Ibrahimović and Cassano combined well all evening, the latter thwarted again by Čech on 11 minutes, who turned his shot wide.

The Rossoneri were full of attacking vim, but the Czech champions were equally quick to break, and shoot on sight, as demonstrated by Horváth, Pilař and Petr Jiráček, who finished a lung-busting run with an effort that flew wide on the half-hour mark. The best chance of the opening period, however, and the pick of Čech's saves, came two minutes later, when Cassano flicked Abate's cross into the path of the unmarked Ibrahimović, whose fierce drive was somehow turned over.

Before the close of a breathless first period Ibrahimović was again denied by Čech at his near post, while at the other end Horváth curled a glorious chance wide after a clever pass from Daniel Kolář. The second half was no less frenetic, Urby Emanuelson blazing over after fine approach play from Cassano within moments of the restart. The breakthrough finally arrived on 53 minutes, when Marián Čišovský handled an impromptu flick from Ibrahimović and the Sweden striker beat Čech from the spot.

Now it was Milan's turn to play on the break, Ibrahimović and Clarence Seedorf combining wonderfully with successive flicked passes to tee up Cassano, who twisted and turned before firing narrowly over. The Italy forward would not have long to wait for his first group stage goal in exactly seven years, however, Ibrahimović bringing down a lofted pass and playing in the former AS Roma and Real Madrid CF man, who tucked the ball through Čech's legs to take his side on to four points alongside FC Barcelona.